Coral Cove #1
I guess everyone wants something in life. It was easy figuring out what each of my BFFs wanted the beginning of our Junior Year at Coral Cove High. For brainy Sudsy it was to get skinny; for upwardly mobile Tamara to get more stuff, and problem child Maria to be treated like she was older than ten.
Who knew that bigger problems lurked in the swampy bayous of Coral Cove, like redheaded Paris Breck, threatening to take me, Brooke Bentley, down like a clump of stinky seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico.
* NOTE: The Coral Cove series consists of standalone novels following the life of Brooke Bentley. The books can be read in any order.
Read the first chapter below!
I guess everyone wants something. It was easy figuring out what each of my three BFFs wanted at the beginning of our Junior Year at Coral Cove High. For brainy Sudsy, it was to get skinny and have a boyfriend; for gorgeous Maria, to have her parents treat her like she was older than ten; for upwardly mobile Tamara, to get more stuff.
When it came to me, all I wanted was to be taken more seriously. For some reason when you’re reasonably cute, no one thinks you’re very smart. Other than geometry, my grades were okay, so why was I always getting the dumb, almost-blonde treatment?
Who’d have guessed bigger problems were lurking around the bayous of Coral Cove in the form of my soon-to-be nemesis Paris Breck? But first I have to tell you about Maria and how I always seemed to get tangled up in her problems, like a clump of stinky seaweed in the Gulf of Mexico.
It was a lazy Sunday morning and I’d just glided the Green Lady (my darling convertible) through the wrought iron gates of our Mediterranean onto the brick streets to my killer job at Surf’s Up. Top down, (the convertible’s, not mine), I was playing a rerun of my date with Tyler the night before, wondering if being forced to defend my virginity on a weekly basis was worth the hassle of having a boyfriend.
The reggae sound of The Expendables met me at the door. The Sisters, aka BFFs Sudsy, Tamara and Maria, didn’t seem to notice I was late. But instead of getting the evil eye from my old hippie boss, Dave, like you usually do from a grownup when you screw up, I got a sad, reassuring smile. The kind your parents give when you just broke your arm rollerblading.
I raced to a rack of bikinis and began to madly rearrange them, sneaking peeks at Sudsy and Tamara refolding a stack of Rip Curl T-shirts. Sudsy shot me a look from behind wire-rimmed Beatles glasses and shook her head. I was trying to figure out what she meant when Maria passed by carrying a box of sunblock. The crybaby of our group, tears from her big brown eyes threatened to spill down her cheeks like she was in a soap opera on Telemundo.
“What’s wrong with Maria?” I whispered to Sudsy.
“She’s bummed because her father told her she can’t go to Homecoming with Anthony,” Sudsy whispered back.
“So that’s a surprise?”
“No, but she just found out Anthony will be leaving for Army boot camp after Thanksgiving. Who knows what could happen to him?”
I glanced at Maria where she stood lining up amber bottles of sunblock and gave her a little wave. But instead of a smile, she just bit her Angelina Jolie look-a-like lip.
“Leave her alone,” Tamara advised. “She’s just going to have to deal with it.”
The morning flew by. In an attempt to pump swimwear sales, Dave coaxed me into a hot white Juicy Couture ruffled bikini (the killer suit I’d die for), to parade around the shop. I felt like an idiot, especially when two girls from school came in, but Dave was the boss.
Around one, Dave ordered a ham and pineapple pizza from Zeno’s Greek Pizza Parlor. We’d just finished devouring it when a well-dressed redhead and a skinny, youngish blonde sauntered in. Sporting Kate Spade, Prada, and real jewelry, they looked like they’d be good for a couple of hundred easy. The older one, who was around fifty, reminded me of an actress I’d seen on TV reruns.
“May I help you?” I asked.
A sneer crossed the redhead’s Pekinese face; the same kind of look you make when you’ve just spotted a big, fat cockroach.
“Tiffany wants to try on some suits. She’s a seven.”
“The sevens are on the rack against the wall,” I said, and with a wave herded them like a sheep dog to the back.
After a few minutes of mangling the merchandise, Tiffany held up a hot turquoise T-back. “What do you think, Mommy?”
She’s like thirty and still calls her mother Mommy? It was all I could do not to barf.
“Try it on. It’s cute.”
While Baby Cakes trotted off to the dressing room, I knocked myself out showing Mommy everything in the store. Twenty minutes later, BC reappeared with a sea foam green baby doll dress, two L-Spaces, and my to-die-for Juicy Couture bikini. She headed for the cash register, her mother trailing behind. Bingo!
“I’d kill for that suit,” I said. “It’s the hottest ever.” Mommy handed me her American Express card and I ran it through the machine. “Paris Breck, what a pretty name. Did anyone ever tell you that you’re an eponym?”
“I’m a what?” She raised one radically plucked brow.
“An eponym. When something’s named after a person it’s called an eponym. Of course, you’re named after a person and a city too.”
She looked annoyed. “Oh, really? How interesting.”
“It just happens to be one of my vocabulary words from last week.”
Dave high-fived me when they left. “Killer job, Brookesie. Have another piece of pizza.”
“No thanks. My ass is big enough as it is.”
“Your ass is perfect and you know it,” Sudsy said, whisking by with the broom. But for once I wasn’t worrying about the way I looked. I was worrying about Maria.
It wasn’t until things slowed down and the four of us took a break at the beat up picnic table out back that we were able to talk.
“Okay, Maria, what’s the scoop?” I asked.
“It’s the same old thing. My dad thinks Anthony’s too old and a sleezeball loser, so he won’t let me date him.”
Tamara wrinkled her perfectly sculptured nose. “But you do anyway, right?”
“Well, yes. But I hate sneaking around! I want to go to Homecoming and wear a pretty dress just like everyone else. It’s the least I can do before he’s shipped off to the Middle East.” A fat tear streamed down her face.
I patted her hand. As usual I felt all protective and mushy. Just like in pre-school when she’d screwed up the CD player and I took the blame. “Now, don’t worry, honey. We’ll figure out something.”
Sudsy slid a neatly typed sheet of paper to me across the table. “Well, while everyone’s ruminating, here’s your new vocabulary list.”
I looked down. “Monday. Masticate.”
“It means to chew,” Sudsy explained.
“Then why the hell not just say chew?” Tamara demanded. She was not in a good mood.
Sudsy adjusted her glasses. “Because any moron can say chew, T. That’s why.”
Tamara rolled her eyes. “Well, it sounds like something a lot more exciting than just eating.”
Sudsy and I giggled while Maria just looked bewildered.
“So why not say you’re going to the dance in a group and then just sleep over at my house?” I suggested.
The Sisters nodded.
A shadow of a smile crossed Maria’s face. “Do you think it will work?
“No problem. I’ll run it by my mother. I’m sure she’ll be okay with it.”
“See, Maria, all fixed,” I said. But as soon as the words left my lips I was left with a bad feeling in my stomach, like I’d just eaten a raw oyster in a month spelled without an R.
The next day at school I spent half of geometry class figuring out the logistics of my scheme to get Maria to Homecoming with Anthony by drawing little isosceles triangles on my paper. Hmm. If one corner was Maria, another Anthony, and the last corner Maria’s dad… My math teacher, Mr. Humphrey, claims side angle side equals side angle side, but in this case I had the feeling it equaled trouble.
It was Wednesday after school and I was sprawled out on an obnoxious green alligator raft in our heated pool, wondering how we were going to pull off Maria’s secret date. Hopefully Maria’s family would be preoccupied with making that incredible chicken with yellow rice I love, or the black bean soup I adore even more, and wouldn’t notice her sneaking out her dress. My stomach growled. God, I wished I had some chicken and yellow rice.
I hopped out of the pool and wrapped myself in a huge fluffy towel. Would my mother be cooking something on that new blue European gas stove of hers, or would she just be polishing the stainless steel?
“What’s for dinner?” I asked, dripping into the kitchen.
My mother blew a lock of blonde hair off her forehead. “Roast chicken with lemon, brown rice with pecans and mushrooms, and ratatouille.”
“You know, I really love you.”
“Yes. By the way, Sudsy called, but I didn’t want to take the phone to you in the pool.”
“Mom, you can’t get electrocuted on a cordless phone. It runs on batteries.”
“Well, it just makes me nervous.” She took off her Kiss-the-Cook apron. “How’s Sudsy coming with her romance novel?”
“Almost finished, but she won’t let anyone read it.”
“Doesn’t she need someone to edit? Maybe I could help since I am a lit major.”
“Forget it. Sudsy says it’s an absolute masterpiece already.”
There’s an old cornball song my Grandma Donnie sings. Something about life not being easy—I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden. I don’t know who’s begging whose pardon, but they were sure right about life not being a bed of flowers. I mean, I was just trying to help Maria and already I was the bad guy. At least according to Tyler.
After school the next day, Tyler and I parked the Green Lady at the Cove for the purpose of my telling him our plans had changed. Having an abundance of testosterone surging through his scrawny bod, I’m sure he thought we’d driven to the Cove to make out. So once I’d turned off the engine, I gave him a juicy kiss to get him in a good mood. Kissing Tyler was really quite delicious, because, scrawny or not, he was one of the hottest guys at Coral Cove High. But when I pushed him away and blurted out that he’d have to meet me at Homecoming because I’d be going to the dance in a group date with Sudsy, Tamara, and Maria, he was not happy.
“But I thought Maria was going with that Anthony dude?”
“She is. But her father can’t stand him, so she has to pretend she’s going with us girls and then sleep over at my house.”
“You must be friggin’ kidding,” he croaked. Sometimes when Tyler gets excited his voice still goes up and down like the Scorpion ride at Busch Gardens.
“No, I’m not kidding, Tyler. This dance is like extremely crucial to Maria. I can’t let her down.”
“But it’s all right to let me down.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is. We can still be at the dance together.”
“So does that mean we won’t be hanging out after?”
I looked at him and smiled, realizing that hanging out meant making out in the back seat of my convertible.
“There’ll be plenty of other times for that. Think of it this way. Helping Anthony and Maria go to Homecoming is sort of like your patriotic duty. I mean, Anthony could get killed when he’s in the army. It’s the least you can do.”
A scowl crossed his handsome face. “You know, Brooke, I’m really sick of the way you always manipulate me.”
“With the exception of now, when have I manipulated you?”
“All the time. You constantly have some kind of scheme.”
“Tyler, that’s not true. Besides, in business they call that entrepreneurship.”
We drove back to school in silence; Tyler turned away from me like my cat does on the way home from the vet. I stopped at the bike rack where he got out of the Green Lady and slammed the door.
“You don’t have to take it out on my car,” I said.
He turned and glared. “I wish you worried half as much about me as you do about your damn car. Well, you won’t have to worry about it anymore.”
“So does that meaning you’re breaking up with me?”
“What do you think?” he snapped and with that unlocked his bike and pedaled off in a cloud of dust.